Just William

The facts

For eleven years Mrs Brown had filled the trying position of William’s mother. It had taught her patience.

  • Number: 1.12
  • Published: 1922 (1919 in magazine form)
  • Book: Just William
  • Synopsis: William acquires a dog.

Verdict

Jumble is such a close associate of William that it’s hard to imagine how far back in the mists of time their first meeting must have been. But this is it – and, shockingly, Jumble was already named before William obtained him!

“Oh, you are a funny boy!” she said with a ripple of laughter, “and you look so rough and untidy. You’re rather like Jumble.”

When he first takes his new dog home, Mr Brown’s first concern is for his garden: but, not to worry, his son has this angle covered: “‘He’s tied up all right,’ William assured him. ‘I tied him to the tree in the middle of the rose-bed.'”

Unfortunately, as with collar-wearing dogs found in the street, Jumble already had an owner, an eccentric girl and her eccentric artist father. The girl takes rather a shine to William, and, with the promise of a quieter, prettier dog in the offing, agrees to make William a gift of Jumble… in exchange for a kiss.

“There was a picture in that year’s Academy that attracted a good deal of attention. It was of a boy sitting on an upturned box in a barn, his elbows on his knees, his chin in his hands. He was gazing down at a mongrel dog and in his freckled face was the solemnity and unconscious, eager wistfulness that is the mark of youth. His untidy, unbrushed hair stood up round his face. The mongrel was looking up, quivering, expectant, trusting, adoring, some reflection of the boy’s eager wistfulness showing in the eyes and cocked ears. It was called ‘Friendship’. Mrs Brown went up to see it. She said it wasn’t really a very good likeness of William and she wished they’d made him look a little tidier.”

This story seems oddly implausible even for William. But it laid the groundwork for dozens of Jumble-centric stories in future so we can’t really complain!

The facts

The young man had met Ethel at an evening party and had succumbed to her charm. Lacking courage to pursue the acquaintance, he had cultivated the friendship of her small brother, under a quite erroneous impression that this would win him her good graces.

  • Number: 1.11
  • Published: 1922 (1920 in magazine form)
  • Book: Just William
  • Synopsis: William accepts a bribe in exchange for his sister’s heart.

Verdict

Some pangs of conscience from William in this story: although happy to help Mr French win over Ethel, he feels bad about using subterfuge.”Still – white rats were white rats”, and Mr French had promised him two of them.

“I can’t walk any more, Ethel,” William said, turning his healthy countenance up to her. “I’m took ill sudden.”
She looked down at him impatiently. “Don’t be absurd, William,” she said. “Get up.”
“I’m not absurd,” he said firmly. “I’m took ill.”
“Where do you feel ill?”
“All over,” he said guardedly.

Of course, having given in to bribery, it was just a short step to blackmail, as William realises that further treats might be extorted from Mr French in exchange for his silence about the whole scheme.

Affairs come to a climax, as so often, in church, where a rat escapes and the whole plot is laid bare.

William obviously behaves pretty badly in this story, but shows surprisingly mature intelligence in the way that he does so!

The facts

“I’ve arsked her regl’ar to marry me, every New Year’s Day for ten year.”
“Well,” said William with a judicial air, “I wun’t have asked the same one for ten years. I’d have tried someone else. I’d have gone on asking other people, if I wanted to get married. You’d be sure to find someone that wouldn’t mind you: with a sweet-shop, too. She must be a softie. Does she know you’ve got a sweet-shop?”

  • Number: 1.10
  • Published: 1922 (1921 in magazine form)
  • Book: Just William
  • Synopsis: William, pursuant to a New Year’s Resolution to be “perlite” for a day, agrees to mind the village sweet shop.

Verdict

This is a bit of a Lord of the Flies tale detailing the inevitable consequences of putting William – William – in charge of a sweet shop.

Because of his extensive snacking in the earlier part of his shift, he has to increase prices to make up for it. This leads to a clash with a slightly odd elderly lady who accuses William of “profiteering” and (very oddly) “blasphemy”; every barbed insult he throws back at her (“You ole thief!”) is, mindful of his determination to be polite, suffixed with the phrase, “If you’ll ’scuse me contradictin’ of you.”

He gives free wares to a nice young girl who takes his fancy, and ends up starting a free-for-all amongst all the boys of the village.

All somewhat unsurprising.

It is a great gift to be able to lie so as to convince other people. It is a still greater gift to be able to lie so as to convince oneself. William was possessed of the latter gift.

A rare breach of the fourth wall to close the story:

“Reader, if you had been left, at the age of eleven, in sole charge of a sweet shop for a whole morning, would it have been all right with you? I trow not. But we will not follow William through the humiliating hours of the afternoon. We will leave him as, pale and unsteady, but as yet master of the situation, he wends his homeward way.”